dead sea scroll
The Name of God is a very controversial subject as we have thus far discovered. However, I believe the Name can unleash an empowered personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. First though, we have to rediscover the “lost” name of God. In this episode we will examine the actual manuscripts our English Old Testament is derived upon which will continue to build the foundation of our study.

We have already covered a lot of material in this series, and if your mind gets fuzzy after a week like mine then it would be wise to review what we have covered thus far.

  • God has only one proper Name
  • God instructs us to “praise the Name”
  • God expects us to “call on the Name”
  • God warns us not to “blaspheme” or take the Name “in vain”.
  • The Old Testament autographs did not contain written vowels
  • The consonants of the Name are in extant Hebrew manuscripts
  • The Masoretes dedicated themselves to the preservation of the TANAKH
  • Our English Old Testament is based upon Masoretic manuscripts
  • The Masoretes codified a vowel system so that the pronunciation of the TANAKH would not be lost
  • The nikudim, or vowel points did not alter the orginal text or letters
  • By around the first century the Name of God was only pronounced in the Temple by the High Priest once a year, on the Day of Atonement
  • The Rabbinic Jews built a fence around the pronunciation of the Name
  • The Masoretes purposely removed and/or changed the vowels of the Name.
  • Moses wrote in Paleo Hebrew
  • The Masoretic manuscript are written in Square Hebrew

As I said we have already covered a great deal of material but have much more  to go. New material builds upon previous material so it’s important to listen to all the episodes of this series in order.

Our English versions of the Old Testament (scholarly versions) were derived from the best Hebrew manuscripts at the time. Manuscripts of the Old Testament are not as vast as the multitude of witnesses for the Greek New Testament, nor is it as comprehensive. Even with the Dead Sea Scrolls there remains a large gap of centuries between the time of the autographs and our earliest Hebrew manuscripts. We have in the Greek New Testament copies that are only 300 to 400 years removed from the autographs but our Hebrew Old Testament texts are nearly 2,400 years removed from Moses.The most important Hebrew manuscripts include the Leningrad Codex, the Aleppo Codex, and the Crown of Damascus, all three of these are of the Masoretic tradition. In addition we have the recent discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a thousand years earlier than the Leningrad.

Leningrad Codex

The Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. Codex is Latin for an ancient manuscript in book form. It was written in Cairo around the year 1010. It resides in the National Library of St. Petersburg, Russia. The Leningrad and Aleppo Codex are of the famous Ben Asher family of scribes who lived in Tiberias. The two manuscripts are regarded as the primary codices of the Masoretic tradition. Because the Leningrad Codex is the oldest intact, complete, edition of the Hebrew Bible, it is frequently used as the basis for modern editions such as the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS). It is the Leningrad Codex (BHS) that underlies most editions of the Modern English Bible including the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New International Version (NSV). However, all of these refer to other manuscripts as well for their translations.

Aleppo Codex

The Leningrad Codex, although complete, is not considered the best quality Hebrew manuscript. The Aleppo Codex ranks first among the Hebrew manuscripts and derives its name from the city in Syria where it had been located. The Codex can be viewed online at aleppocodex.org. The site’s introduction includes the following:

The Aleppo Codex is a full manuscript of the entire Bible, which was written about 930 A.D. For more than a thousand years, the manuscript was preserved in its entirety in important Jewish communities in the Near East: Tiberias, Jerusalem, Egypt, and in the city of Aleppo in Syria. However, in 1947, after the United Nations Resolution establishing the State of Israel, it was damaged in riots that broke out in Syria. At first people thought that it had been completely destroyed. Later, however, it turned out that most of the manuscript had been saved and kept in a secret hiding place. In 1958, the Aleppo Codex was smuggled out of Syria to Jerusalem and delivered to the President of the State of Israel, Izhak Ben-Zvi. The Aleppo Codex, as it reached Israel, has 294 parchment pages, written on both sides. Examination revealed that many pages were missing as a result of the damage to the Codex in 1947. Mainly the first part of the manuscript was damaged, the Pentateuch, of which only the last eleven pages remained. Almost all of the Five Books of Moses had been lost, except the final chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy, which were preserved. The final pages of the Aleppo Codex are also missing, including part of the Song of Songs, and all of Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. In the rest of the books of the prophets, some pages are missing. In all, the Aleppo Codex originally had 487 pages. Originally contained the entire Hebrew Bible and was written in the 10th century.

In the late 1980s, the codex was placed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Shrine of the Book

Crown Of Damascus

The Crown of Damascus is a 10th century Hebrew Bible codex of the Pentateuch containing the first Five Books of Moses. The codex was copied by an unknown scribe, replete with Masoretic annotations. The manuscript is lacking in its beginning, as it starts with Genesis 9:26 (Exodus 18:1–23 is also missing). It was acquired by the Jewish National and University Library in 1975

It is one of the oldest extant Bible codices, ranking with that of the Aleppo Codex and Leningrad Codex. In many places, the Damascus Pentateuch follows the traditions of the masorete, Aaron ben Asher. It is written on parchment, in three columns to the page, in large square script typical of writing scripts used in the 9th century. Like other codices of its era, it bears micrography known as the Masora Magna (large Masora), that is, the preservation of the minutiæ of the text-tradition written as a gloss on the top and bottom of each page, as well as the Masora Parva (small Masora) written in between the columns. It was acquired by the Jewish National and University Library in 1975.

Dead Sea Scrolls

In March 1948 an Arab boy looking for his lost goat stumbled upon the most significant manuscript discovery of the century. In all about 800 scrolls, including thousands of fragments have been uncovered. These scrolls were produced by a deeply religious community known as the Essenes. Apparently the scrolls were put in these caves for safe keeping during the time the Romans were putting down the Jewish rebellion. Many scrolls concern only the peculiar beliefs of the community however, many fragments and substantial portions of the Old Testament were also included. Altogether there are about 200 texts of the Old Testament, but many of these are no more than fragments. The book of Psalms is represented by (36) manuscripts, Deuteronomy (29), Isaiah (21), Exodus (17), Genesis (15) and so forth. A portion of every Old Testament book was discovered except for the book of Esther.

One of the prominent Old Testament finds included The Great Isaiah Scroll. It is a complete copy except for a few small breaks in the text. For all practical purposes the text reads the same as the Masoretic. The majority of variances are spelling, grammar, and modifications of vocabulary.

Prior to the Dead Sea scrolls the oldest Hebrew Old Testament manuscript was from ~900 A.D. The Dead Sea scrolls provided Hebrew manuscripts 1000 years older than previously existed.

Comparison Of Manuscripts

Now I would like to compare The Leningrad, Aleppo, and Great Isaiah Scroll to our English Old Testament. Our comparison text is Isaiah 12:4.

ASV Isaiah 12:4 And in that day shall ye say, Give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name, declare his doings among the peoples, make mention that his name is exalted.

JPS Isaiah 12:4 And in that day shall ye say: ‘Give thanks unto the LORD, proclaim His name, declare His doings among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted.

KJV Isaiah 12:4 And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.

NAS Isaiah 12:4 And in that day you will say, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.”

NAU Isaiah 12:4 And in that day you will say, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.”

NIV Isaiah 12:4 In that day you will say: “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.

In the BHS Hebrew text we have:

  וַאֲמַרְתֶּם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה קִרְאוּ בִשְׁמוֹ
הוֹדִיעוּ בָעַמִּים עֲלִילֹתָיו הַזְכִּירוּ כִּי נִשְׂגָּב שְׁמוֹ

And now the manuscripts:

Leningrad Codex Isaiah 12:4

Aleppo Codex Isaiah 12:4

Dead Sea – Great Isaiah Scroll Isaiah 12:4

In the images I circled the Name of YHVH. You will notice the nikudim in the Leningrad and Aleppo as they are both of the Masoretic tradition. The Great Isaiah scroll does not have the vowels as it was written long before the Masoretes developed the nikudim, or vowel pointing system.

The important thing to notice is that in the Leningrad and Aleppo YHVH cannot be pronounced as it is lacking a vowel. You cannot pronounce YeHVaH. If, for example, YHVH is to be pronounced as Yehovah, then the “o” vowel is missing after the first “Hey”. We see then the intentional removal and changing of vowels when it comes to YHVH. However, there are a very few exceptions to this in both of these manuscripts. was this also intentional or simply an oversight? These we will look at in a future episode. Before I end today I wanted to show the difference between the Leningrad and Aleppo Square Hebrew and Paleo Hebrew, with which Moshe wrote the Torah.

Tetragrammaton YHVH

The first two line are variations of Paleo Hebrew for YHVH. You can see this on one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a passage from the book of Psalms:

Dead Sea Scroll Psalms

Dead Sea Scroll Psalms

Next time we will study many of the names in the Hebrew Bible and begin to unravel the mystery of YHVH. Till next time God bless.